Woman rescued after vacant house fire spread; issue eats up your tax dollars

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by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 4:48 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A woman was rescued from her house by a neighbor Thursday after an intense fire spread from a vacant home. The woman’s home, next to Sumner High School, now has boards over broken windows and the vacant house is a pile of bricks. 

Alderman Sam Moore is confident brick thieves are behind the fire. And he says if residents everywhere don’t think it affects them, think again.

Kenneth Anderson lives two doors down from the vacant house that burned.  The woman who was saved is his sister.  She wasn’t harmed but now has a home with significant smoke damage and boarded up windows.

“I think the city should have a program where if the house is vacant for more than 10 years it should be knocked down,” Anderson said.  “That house [that burned] had been empty for about 30 years.”

News 4 took his suggestion to Alderman Moore.

“Well, we can’t tear them all down,” Moore said. He says there are more than 50 “half houses” in his ward intentionally burned.  He’s confident he knows who’s behind it all.

“The thieves will come tomorrow and pick up all the bricks.  [The bricks are] nice and clean.  They don’t have to pick them and scrape them.”

The recently-burned vacant house on St. Ferdinand Avenue comes with a price to taxpayers.  Moore says a mess like this will cost the city $12,000 to clean up because of hazards involved.  That money could be spent on other city matters.

The brick thieves are coming from all over.  Moore says he chased off three thieves this week who had Alabama license plates.  He says the St. Louis bricks are a higher quality and are being shipped down the Mississippi River to Memphis, New Orleans, and other cities that are rebuilding.  He says people working with bricks there learn how easy it is to steal in St. Louis so they make trips to burn down the vacant houses.

“We got to eradicate the crime in order to entice developers to come in and take some of these structures,” Moore said. “And we’re working with Rankin Tech. Have the students instead of being in place, and come out and do some actuality and work.”

Moore says that plan just needs funding released from grants the city already has.  He’s also pushing for stiffer penalties.  He’s working with other alderman on a “pitbull bill” that would include jail time for brick thieves.

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